Ombudsman replacement proceeding apace

By Robert Frank

Laval is close to hiring a new ombudsman to fill the office, which has been vacant since city council fired the previous incumbent, corporate lawyer Diane Lemelin, Jan. 14.

Mayor Alexandre Duplessis arranged for three volunteer ombudsman commissioners Josée Cailloux, Yvette Gagnon and Ronald Lapierre to fill the gap whilst the city defined the responsibilities of a new ombudsman.

The mayor’s spokesman Pierre-Philippe Lortie told The Suburban, June 13 that the city could soon be in a position to hire.

“We’re almost at the end of the process,” he declared.

He was uncertain, though, as to whether the appointment will be delayed, since Laval is now under provincial trusteeship.

“It still has to pass muster with the municipal commission,” Lortie explained. “This is all new for us, and we have to learn how the municipal commission plans to deal with such matters.”

“On our side, we’re close to a decision,” he added, “but we don’t know whether the decision will be made final within days, weeks or months.”

“I personally took part in the city’s recruitment interviews to select the next ombudsman, together with a member of the human resources department and the city’s senior management,” Cailloux told The Suburban in an electronic mail message. “We unanimously recommended the candidate who subsequently met members of the executive committee.”

“I’m fully confident that the Ombudsman’s office will be fully functional upon the arrival of the new ombudsman,” she continued. “Naturally, there will be many files to address, because the previous head of the office, Diane Lemelin, was let go at the beginning of January 2013. Since then, lots of files have accumulated and the new ombudsman won’t be employed full-time.”

In January, a senior official told The Suburban that tensions quickly arose after municipal mandarins attempted to compromise the ombudsman’s independence by placing the office under the authority of Gaétan Turbide, Laval’s top civil servant.

Turbide was suspended from his job, May 3, as was his second-in-command, Jean Roberge.

After allegations that they had been involved in misdeeds, Mayor Duplessis’ right-hand man, Basile Angelopoulos, acknowledged during Laval’s tempestuous June 3 city council meeting that both city employees continue to draw their pay and benefits, despite the suspension.

He added that, rather than firing the pair summarily, the city is proceeding in a circumspect fashion to avoid potential lawsuits “that could cost taxpayers even more.”

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